The Inner Workings of Hungry Digital Zombies

Over the period of BCM240, I have curated the blog “Hungry Digital Zombies”, in the last nine weeks it has received various minor alterations as well as a major visual redesign but I have consistently stuck to the aim of writing posts that can be read by anyone interested in media and communication with relative ease as seen in the tagline “A communication and media blog for the digital zombie in all of us”. Each post is a response to that weeks topic of a specific subject, in each post I try to address an issue, explore its implications and look at responses to the issue all while attempting to foster audience participation. When designing and later on maintaining the blog, I focused on aspects such as the format and language of each post, the visual design of the blog and audience participation, in such a way that the blog would be simple and streamlined almost to a minimalist level to allow for quick access and reading.

 The Writing’s on The Wall

As previously mentioned, posts in Hungry Digital Zombies are responses to weekly topics that attempt to address an issue in relation to the topic. Each post is written to maintain a pseudo casual atmosphere while being objective unless specifically expressing an opinion. I tried to reference and source as often as I could to a variety of sources for a few reasons. References and sources not only bolstered reliability but also linked readers to further readings, I tried to pick a variety of types of sources such as newspaper articles, academic articles and videos to avoid each post being just a block of writing. The use of headings further pushes ease of readability and has been noted by readers as being a great aspect that they do appreciate.

 Look At It

Research showed that the colours red, black and white in conjunction are often related with professionalism, I chose these colours for almost every visual aspect of Hungry Digital Zombies to keep a professional, reliable look about my blog. The header picture of each post serves as an eye catcher as well as aids readers in scanning for posts they are looking for or are interested in as opposed to menus and the twitter feed being a much shorter fraction of the screen to focus on the content of the post. The size and font of the writing in each post is chosen to be clear and again aids readers in scanning for specific information. When designing Hungry Digital Zombies I noted that people online often have shorter attention spans, don’t have the time to read articles in depth or are multitasking and may be distracted, to address this, I specifically designed my blog to be eye catching and streamlined for readers ease.

 We’ll Do It Together

From the beginning Hungry Digital Zombies has been linked to my twitter account @RalphiePeerless where I share articles relating to digital media and communication, this is mostly due to other university assignments but I do retweet interesting information from Youtubers, game developers and leaders in the tech industry. This integration with twitter allows for two way interaction with readers and among them outside of the comments box of each post. In the last few weeks (and a couple of other times in the past) I have encouraged readers to respond in an attempt to generate discussion around the blog for audience participation and blog publicity.

 It’s a Utopian Future

Hungry Digital Zombies has experienced steady growth in followers since its debut although nothing significant. Feedback has shown that the layout is appealing and that the content is easy to read as well as informative but in the future I would like to develop consistency in the regularity of posts. Audience participation has shown minimal results (Which is expected with the size and type of readership) although I may continue the weekly questions and encouraging people to reach out to me and other readers as well as tweeting on a regular basis. On a larger scale I would like to work with other bloggers to create a network in order to more deeply explore topics and possibly follow news stories.

 We’re Not There Yet

Overall I see Hungry Digital Zombies as the fully realised blog I wanted it to be. As the tag line reads “A communication and media blog for the digital zombie in all of us”, this statement identifies that this blog is solely focused on ideas in media and communication, and that it’s tailored for a wide range of audiences. Hungry digital Zombies effectively works for audiences by allowing for easy accessibility and readability. At this point, HDZ is far from complete and will most likely undergo many more evolutions all for the better.

Advertisements

The Aussie Film Dilemna

This week we’re looking at why the Australian film industry is struggling. What’s wrong? Well, statistics show that Australians aren’t responding well to Australian made films, as swift mentions, “Our biggest Australian films are treated by overseas audiences the way the majority of our films are treated by local audiences: with indifference“. Swift is suggesting that it’s not about the quality of the films, in fact a lot of Australian films have found box office success, the issue lies elsewhere and that is what we’re trying to find this week.

The Problem In Detail

The Australian made film “These Final Hours” was expected to be successful, it was an ambitious project to compete with bigger Hollywood films and it did get quite good reviews but unfortunately while it expected to make $1 million in box office sales in the first weekend it only reached a reported $207,000, considerably less than what could be considered successful.

Seeing the trailer for These Final Hours, I was interested and wanted to watch the movie but this brings me to the first issue, inability to find these films anywhere. Aside from enormous Aussie hits such as The Great Gatsby, The Sapphires or Red Dog, Australian movies seem to be isolated to independent screenings in a few selected areas, I visit my local cinema quite often and I can tell you, I didn’t even hear of These Final Hours. For people like me who can’t really afford an expedition to an independent cinema to watch one film, we’re kind of forced into piracy. As I wrote about in a previous post, the ability to go to the cinema hinges on time and physical capability, things many Australians don’t have especially if you don’t live in big coastal cities.

I’m on the internet probably for the better half of my day and so I often hear of films that interest me before they’re advertised in cinemas or on tv but somehow These Final Hours flew under my radar entirely. This brings me to my second point, Australian films often have a lower budget than bigger Hollywood films and so there is less advertising leeway. Films benefit a lot from hype built up around social media but Australian films appear to have such a weak social media presence. Either by unimaginative campaigns or people not sharing posts because of a lack of necessity.

How We Turn This Around

File sharing and piracy is such a big issue in Australia often because we have no other option. Cinema tickets are becoming more and more expensive and Cinemas aren’t able to show every film worth seeing at the time. In the United States, streaming is a very popular method for accessing the media you want when and wherever, if Australia is not going to invest in better internet to allow for reliable streaming, I suggest that film makers look into distribution tactics that embrace file sharing such as federally funded file sharing. One such tactic could involve intentionally sharing content for free through torrenting or sites such as Youtube then once an audience has been generated, move to a paid platform such as cinemas or paid tv.

In this article Don Groves suggests ways to which Australia could better promote it’s films. Grove writes:

“Utilize social media and content marketing as a low budget way to build awareness and advocacy for Australian films. Social media is an essential tool for combating Hollywood’s domination of the Australian media landscape as it provides filmmakers a way to reach audiences on their own terms” (Groves, 2014)

Groves identifies that reaching out to the audience is raising awareness of the films and so more people are likely to spend money to see them. I’d like to add to this by suggesting campaigns that motivate the spread of awareness such as competitions or witty hashtags would allow Australian film marketing to reach people who aren’t looking for Australian films and raise awareness credibility and hype.

This week, hit me up on twitter @RalphiePeerless and let me know, what’s your favourite Australian film, where did you see it and how did you hear about it?

Be The Regulator Within You

Although my father is quite lenient with technology in the house, the one rule he enforces time and time again is not having headphones in when I’m outside of my room. Since the rise of digital technologies people have desperately tried to control it and everyone’s usage of it more often than not due to a general fear or misunderstanding of technology.

I Can’t Hear You, I’m Isolating Myself

As Sturken and Thomas identify, new technology is a primary platform for unloading our deepest social fears and and exploring potential for the future. A common example of this is of parents regulating the media their children consume in the fear that it will corrupt them morally or harm them in one way or another. In the case of my household, the rule of not wearing headphones outside of private time is intended to ensure a classic ‘family’ mentality. Even if we’re not currently having a discussion, my dad will make sure I’m not wearing headphones because he believes it isolates myself from everyone around me. This rule only applies within my home although there is public concern for the safety of people who cross roads with headphones on. These are separate example where media regulation is a necessity and when it’s the exercising of social fears.

Earlier this year my 14 year old sister came home from school asking me what Game of Thrones is because everyone in her class is raving about it and it sounds cool. I was astounded, usually I’m easy going with letting my sister watch what she wants but 14 year olds watching and loving Game of Thrones was a little much for me (To clarify, this is the only thing I actively forbid her from watching till she’s older that she wants to watch, I’m not mean I just don’t think my sister is responsible enough to comprehend the adult themes of the show). Censorship towards younger audiences is an example of the social fear of media morally corrupting youth.

Full Force Enforcement

In the case between me and my sister where I don’t allow her to watch Game of Thrones, it’s only really enforce by me asking her not to and having to trust that she respects my wishes but on a larger scale there are bureaus in charge of regulating what we see on tv and radio that categorize shows, songs and ads into ratings categories and responds to public complaints on a regular basis. This further emphasizes the public fear that offensive media will desensitize our youth and morally corrupt them.

In interesting thing to note is that the ratings placed on media by regulators are almost always age restriction suggestions and imply that within your own home you choose what you consume suggesting that lawfully we are responsible for our own media consumption within out own homes but outside the home there must be a general consensus on what is considered appropriate or not.

This week, tweet me at @RalphiePeerless and let me know, Are there any shows or ads that you aren’t allowed to watch or you don’t allow others to watch?

The Citizen and The Journalist

In the last 5 years there has been a dramatic rise in online social media usage. Not just for mild posts on what someone had for lunch but also more important information such as details during political revolutions and crowd sourced information in criminal cases. The development of specifically non mainstream media based journalism specifically by non journalists has given rise to the term Citizen journalism, referring to regular people, not employed by newspapers or news programs to source stories, investigating and broadcasting information.

Citizen Journalists on the Backs of Blue Birds

Following the April 2013 Boston Bombings, a reported 8 million tweets relevant to the incident were generated by 3.7 million people. An incredible amount of user generated content towards citizen journalism but the question is how effective is it as a journalism practice? I terms of content aggregation, twitter works wonders. information was retweeted up to thirty thousand times, potentially reaching a great number of people, on the other hand a supposed 29% of the tweets surrounding the Boston Bombings were fake or mere rumors. Serena Carpenter points out “Controversy exists because it is assumed that some citizen journalists produce content without traditional journalistic values in mind“, This is a great comment as it explains how so many of the tweets around the Boston bombings were false. When so many people share content with little to no regard for journalistic ethics, inconsistency is to be expected.

regardless of it’s amateurism and unreliability, I argue that social media sites such as twitter still hold a vital role in today’s mass information spread not as a one stop news source for truth but instead solely as a crowd sourced information aggregation system. In 1947 The Hutchinson’s commission for free press identified five requirements for free and responsible press including, “The media should serve as a forum for the exchange of comment and criticism” and “The media should provide full access to the day’s intelligence” two aspects twitter handles well. Twitter thrives as a platform for the fair exchange of opinion and criticism and is accessible by anyone allowing for full access to the plethora of articles being shared and linked daily.

Bridges

This week I was introduced to the simile, “the sum total of those tweets added up to something truly substantive, like a suspension bridge made of pebbles” (Johnson, 2009), What I think Johnson is saying here is that twitter has power due to it’s sheer number of users and the volumes of content generated daily but I would like to add to this by saying the bridge may hold it’s own made of pebbles but I wouldn’t rely on any specific pebble especially when you don’t know where it came from or why it’s there. For information gathering crowd sourcing is effective quantitatively but fails when it comes to reliable quality.

References

Johnson, S 2009, ‘How Twitter will change the way we live’, Time Magazine, June 5

Multi-tasking: The Worst Thing Ever?

when doing research about multitasking I must admit I was pleasantly surprised by the supposed negative downsides to performing multiple actions at once. “Pleasantly” only because I personally find it near impossible to really multitask.

And The Winner Is…

A study by Professor Clifford Nass published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that contrary to popular belief, multitasking isn’t actually a good skill and suggests that multitasking may hinder various cognitive responses. The study focused on media multitaskers, people who commit to multiple media based activities at a time for example; responding to emails while talking to someone on the phone. Various basic tests found that media multitaskers were more easily distracted by irrelevant stimuli than people who tackle media tasks one at a time, where less capable of switching between tasks, displayed less concentration and had lower performing memory.

Taking a critical look t how the test was done I found the 100 people sample size wasn’t particularly big, especially when it was split into two groups representing each variable. A larger sample size would’ve been more reliable but the results appear fairly defined. Individual tests were used to test individual cognitive action which, again, I think is a somewhat unreliable sample size but nonetheless the results of each test appear fairly defined.

Overall, the test seemed to show that multitasking may be detrimental to a person. Multitaskers train themselves to not respond strongly to any particular stimuli and so they lose the ability to concentrate or focus on specific tasks.

I’m Safe… Maybe

I thought about my media usage and initially thought that my cognitive functions should be relatively fine (disregarding the long nights staying up to do uni work) but on closer inspection I media multitask more than In notice. For example, I check social media on my phone and respond to messages occasionally while watching TV or Youtube, I read tweets that are coming in while I write my own, in fact, I’m listening to music while writing this post right now (I can practically feel my brain rotting).

Why Do I Do This To Myself?

I find that I often don’t have time to do all the things I need and want to do in a timely manner. At work I need to multitask in order to get things done in time or all chaos would ensue. As apparently harmful multitasking is, it may just be essential in this information age where everything needs to happen five minutes ago and no one thing can take priority. Much like anything else in the world, I guess balance is the key. Aristotle believed that virtues are an appropriate balance of vices (Courage is between rashness and cowardice), perhaps efficiency without laziness is a modern virtue we must learn to adopt?

Robots And Fruit

Android and iOS, Google and Apple, open and closed. The differences seem almost black and white but what are they and why pick one or the other. The answer to this is not as black and white.

Enclosed Apples

During the development of Apple’s iPhone, they decided to implement a closed (proprietary) source policy with software and hardware. This means that both the internal and physical workings of the iPhone are locked down and not available to anyone but the main developers to change. The argument in support of this approach generally revolves around the idea of a ‘gatekeeper’. By not allowing third party software developers access to the iPhone, apple can ensure the reliability of their product and maintain a pure use of the iPhone, where a user can only do what apple allows them to in order to avoid viruses and wasteful apps. The same goes for hardware, by locking the physical components of the iPhone, only approved equipment such as chargers and other devices can connect maintaining a sort of reliability.

The closed source approach comes at the cost of innovation and accessibility. By closing the system from change, third party developers are incapable of developing inspired, potentially groundbreaking apps to the apple market, and hardware developers are unable to extend the usability of the product beyond what apple allows users to do,as Tim Lee puts it “The store is an unnecessary bottleneck in the app development process that limits the functionality of iPhone applications and discourages developers from adopting the platform”. By forcing users to pick from a shorter list of approved equipment such as chargers and other components, prices for these components can be and in this case are much more expensive. If someone wants to switch from a non apple device to an iPhone, they would also need to get new equipment to accompany the iPhone which raises the cost of iPhones meaning some people are incapable of affording it.

Wide open Androids

Around the same time that Apple released it’s closed source iPhone to the world, Google formed what’s known as the Open handset alliance, 84 technology and mobile companies that have come together to develop an open source mobile operating system platform called Android. Android is built around a free and open policy that supports innovation and accessibility. It’s a mobile operating system platform, meaning it’s not a whole package in itself, instead it’s a base for anyone to build the exact operating system they want or need around it, this concept by itself solves most of the problems in a closed software environment. By allowing anyone to freely access and use the source for android, operating systems and apps can be created for any reason allowing for a far greater variety and chance for serious innovation in the field of mobile software. A cheap budget version of an android operating system can be developed for anyone who needs it and hardware in the open handset alliance is shared and so they all utilize a more universally accepted micro usb port, meaning no more extra costs if changing or upgrading your phone to a different android device.

“Those hoping for a new gadget to rival the iPhone finally understood that Google had something radically different in mind. Apple’s device was an end in itself — a self-contained, jewel-like masterpiece locked in a sleek protective shell. Android was a means, a seed intended to grow an entire new wireless family tree. Google was never in the hardware business. There would be no gPhone — instead, there would be hundreds of gPhones.” (Roth, D 2008)

Unfortunately having your system wide open for the world to access means viruses and malware can be easily developed and shared among devices. While that is a genuine concern for android users, there is also a plethora of anti malware apps to oppose this abuse of an open source system.

Should I Close This or Leave it Open

“The locked down offerings may be better initially due to a benevolent dictator — and the open solutions may be quite messy at first due to the design-by-committee nature of the crowd, but over time the crowd gets better (or, more accurately, those who are better within the crowd begin to shine and take over), while the benevolent dictator has trouble keeping up.” (Masnick, M 2010)

What Masnick is saying here is that when considering the benefits and downsides to open and closed source systems, the defensive aspects of the closed source system allow it to thrive initially but means it is incapable of growing beyond it’s self imposed walls whereas an open source system is prone to chaos and disorganization but through crowd sourcing and innovation is able to go beyond any existing thresholds in technology.

IDC: Smartphone OS Market Share 2013, 2012, and 2011 Chart
IDC Statistics demonstrate increasing growth in Android shipments in terms of market share.

Anywhere Can Be Public

In today’s information age where everyone has a portable device and every portable device has a camera and images taken by those cameras can be uploaded to the internet for anyone to view, any space has the potential to be globally public. The general consensus of what a public space is involves physical openness as seen in the American Planning Association’s list of what’s considered ‘public space’, and accessibility by anyone of all cultures, gender and age. On the other hand, what’s considered private space is little more obscure. Legally, it would refer to space owned by a particular person that is not accessible by the general public. This is where mobile devices come in.

Public Place Can Be A World Stage 

The above video is of a Broadway cast singing ‘The Circle of Life’ recorded on multiple mobile devices and uploaded to Youtube. At the time of this blog post, the video has received almost eight million views from around the world. This video illustrates how people who thought they were being somewhat private (keeping to themselves) in a public space and suddenly they’re more public than they could imagine. All over the web there are numerous videos, vines, photos and gifs of public or private spaces that have become somewhat openly accessible by anyone on the web, whether the people in them want to or not.

Twitter Is a Private To Public Converter

One of the most common applications on mobile devices is twitter. Twitter allows users to post micro posts of 140 characters and over time it’s developed into a place where people share thoughts, images of food and things they’ve done. This system serves as a platform for making private interactions, public. The portability of modern mobile devices and the new dynamic of being ‘always connected’ means that at any point we can turn any private interaction, place or object into a public artifact for anyone to freely access.